Two Gray Ladies In One!

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

Over all, 51 percent of the respondents approved of Mr. Bush’s performance. That is down from the high 80’s after the Sept. 11 attacks, and from the high 60’s at the beginning of the Iraq war. Just over 4 in 10 voters now have a favorable opinion of the president, compared with more than 6 in 10 in mid-2002, and just over 3 in 10 now have an unfavorable opinion compared with 2 in 10 in July 2002.

Nearly half said they believed that removing Mr. Hussein from power was the main reason for taking military action in Iraq. About a quarter said the main reason was to protect the oil supply, and one-fifth said the goal was to stop Iraq from manufacturing weapons. But only about 4 in 10 said they now believed that Mr. Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, compared with about 5 in 10 who said so in April.

More than half of Americans said relations between the United States and its European allies were worse than when Mr. Bush took office, and fewer than half said leaders of other countries around the world had respect for Mr. Bush.

Mary Preble, 46, a registered nurse and a Republican in Sugar Land, Tex., said: ”I don’t feel George W. Bush has a grasp on what the public is really interested in.” She added: ”I wasn’t happy about the invasion in Iraq. We shouldn’t have attacked before anything was proven. There seem to be no nuclear weapons.

”Right now he is trying to rally everyone around to the cause and give money to rebuild Iraq. But why should other countries kick in cash when he didn’t wait until the U.N. said we’re behind you? The other countries don’t believe he has the leadership skills he should have.”

The poll showed an electorate that remains narrowly divided. When all registered voters were asked whom they would vote for next year, 44 percent said Mr. Bush and 44 percent said the Democratic candidate. But regardless of how they intend to vote, half of registered voters said they expected Mr. Bush to win.

While Mr. Bush’s standing has fallen, the poll showed that the Democratic presidential contenders are still largely unknown, and a majority of those who are planning to vote in their states’ Democratic primaries or caucus next year have not formed opinions of the candidates.


— “Poll Shows Drop in Confidence On Bush Skill in Handling Crises,” the New York Times, October 03, 2003.

Last week, in many places, I read what Sarah Palin was saying about Syria, because of course her geopolitical chops are so thoroughly established. A few months back, I read about Donald Trump’s thoughts on possible military intervention, because any debate over strategy in the Middle East naturally calls for his counsel.

They’re both irrelevant, but they’re eyeball bait: ready, reliable clicks. I wonder how long I’ll have to wait before a post on some Web site clues me into Beyoncé’s Syria position. Late Friday, Politico informed the world of Madonna’s. (She’s anti-intervention.)

This type of coverage hasn’t been the dominant one. But plenty of it is creeping in.

Here’s a smattering of headlines, subheads, sentences and phrases from various news organizations last week: “Votes on Syria could have huge ramifications on 2016 contenders”; “Vote puts Republicans mulling 2016 run on the spot”; “Democrats and Republicans are choosing their words carefully, lest they take a hit three years from now”; “the difficult line G.O.P. presidential contenders like Rubio must balance in trying to project a sense of American military might without turning off conservatives skeptical about following Obama’s lead”; “the risk for Paul is if Obama’s prescription for Syria turns out to be a success”; “Mitch McConnell’s muddle”; “Hillary Clinton’s Syria dilemma.”

Some of this rightly illuminates the political dynamics that will influence the final decisions about a military strike that individual members of Congress and the president reach. It’s essential in that regard.

But some merely reflects the penchant that we scribes and pundits have for reducing complicated issues to campaign-style contests and personality-based narratives, especially if those personalities have the stature and thus the marketability of celebrities.


— “The Syria Babble We Don’t Need,” Frank Bruni, the New York Times, yesterday.

Whatever happened to never letting a crisis go to waste?


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